Marriage is hard work, and figuring out how to have a happy marriage when you are apart is tough. With obstacles all around, it can be tough to manage a long distance relationship. However, with some hard work and diligence it can be done.
My husband and I have an LDR (Long Distance Relationship). We met in high school, fell in love, and were married by my 20th birthday. We live in a small town in Iowa and he struggled to find a job that he enjoyed doing until he went to work for a rural water company putting in new lines. It paid okay, but we wanted better for our family than living paycheck to paycheck, so he kept looking. He found a similar position that paid almost double, but it meant being out of town Monday morning to Thursday night. It was a hard adjustment, but we did it. It was HARD but we were determined to be debt free (including paying off our house within 12 years) so we kept doing it.
Only, we started to drift apart. He worked all the time, wasn't even home at all during the week, and when he was home, he was trying to build a relationship with our two little boys. We neglected to take time for our relationship and ended up separating for a month because we had lost sight of what really mattered. The one month was enough to show us both what we really wanted and give us time to realize some of the issues we had as a couple.
Now, he works for Michels Corporation & travels all over the country (and Canada) for 6-12 weeks at a time. In some ways, this is harder but when he's home, he's REALLY home. He takes a week off when he needs it (Michels is an amazing company to work for) and we spend the week as a family. We try to do a date night almost every time he comes home, which is far further apart than the recommended weekly date nights I read about, but it works for us. Since we have some experience with LDR's, I wanted to share some of my secrets on how to have a happy marriage even when you are apart!
How To Have A Happy Marriage When You Are Apart
No relationship is perfect, and ours takes work, but years of experience with long distance helps me to share with you the things that help us to stay strong despite tough times.
Keep communication consistent: One thing that ends up happening when you are miles apart is the lack of communication. It's hard to connect when you aren't in the same home. Set daily alarms if you have to, but make sure you are talking to each other regularly.
Check in with each other via text message, email, phone calls or even written letters regularly. Some jobs make this harder for you to manage at convenient times, but often sacrifice is part of making a marriage work. If you have to set the alarm to get up at 5am to speak to your husband each day without interruption, it is worth far more than a few hours of sleep. My husband calls and wakes me up every morning for a quick chat & then we talk in the evening after the kids are in bed. We've also found Snapchat to be very helpful at keeping in touch throughout the day. I can send him random pics and videos of the kids quickly, which helps him feel connected to me and the boys.
Don't neglect the little things like the random email, text message, or gift sent their way with no agenda. We often forget to check in for anything other than updates on things back home. Most people, male and female, love knowing that they are being thought of randomly.
One way my husband does this is randomly sending me flowers, especially if he knows I've had a hard day/week. We also randomly send each other song titles to listen to. Something we know the other person would enjoy, a song that made us think of the other, or something gushy romantic.
Don't compare your marriage to others: Stop the comparisons. Stop saying, “her husband does…” or, “if only he was like her husband”. Comparing behavior, money, and communication to other people will only make matters worse. There are many strong couples you can look to for advice and even as examples, but don't let your envy of a great relationship make you overlook the good in the one you have with your spouse. One of the best pieces of advice I ever received about how to have a happy marriage was to focus on what I have in my marriage more than I focus on what others have.
Don't play the, “well if you were here” card: Tough times happen. There will be bad days, forgotten appointments, plumbing emergencies, and everything in between. Never get angry at your spouse for not being there if it is due to work. They are providing a means for your family to have a home and possessions. If they were home, the problem might not be there that moment, but others would be. Get rid of that attitude. This is one I sometimes struggle with – like the other day when one of the boys broke a window, one of the dogs was sick, and I missed a dental cleaning because he got called back to work earlier than we had planned. If you slip up, just apologize and make sure they know you were just frustrated and are grateful for their sacrifice. Remember, as the spouse at home, you have the comfort of home, your children, your friends, and your family – they are missing everyone & everything about home.
Make alone time happen when you are together: If your spouse is only home on the weekends, every other week, or even once a month, make sure that you are focusing some time to each other and only each other. Yes, your children need time with their parents, but it is equally as important that you spend time together as a couple to connect.
If you are together every weekend, make sure to allow at least 1-2 days each month for a date or a few hours of alone time. If you are apart for longer periods of time, grab a babysitter for a night and have a quick overnight trip or simple staycation with your spouse to focus on each other. Take time to talk and work on your relationship, but remember that includes being physically intimate and having fun. You cannot have a strong marriage without good communication, physical intimacy, and fun.
Invest in your marriage: This may sound obvious, but specifically, I have to say that there are a handful of things you can financially invest in that can really help you to have a happier marriage. Some of these are repeats of things above, and others are additions or bonuses worth mentioning.
- Take time for dates regularly.
- Utilize Skype, Facetime, Google Hangouts, or other similar video chat options for visual contact.
- Practice honesty in a polite way. Sometimes sadness, hurt feelings, or anger creep up. Just because you are apart, doesn't mean you shouldn't be honest with your partner. Just do it kindly and understanding there may be nothing they can do in that moment.
- Read books on communication and marriage. Two of my favorites are the books The 5 Love Languages and Couple Skills: Making Your Relationship Work. You can also take a test to determine your love language for free. It may surprise you!
Every marriage will face challenges. How you face those challenges and what you do to improve your marriage in the midst is the difference between a successful marriage and one that ends. You can begin keeping your marriage strong when you are apart by focusing on good communication and meeting each other's needs in the time you have together. Knowing how to have a happy marriage doesn't come from one or even two specific things, but from taking the time to get to know your partner and learn what each of you needs.
More Marriage Tips:
- 5 Tips For Better Communication With Your Spouse
- 10 Frugal Date Nights For Under $20
- 9 Tips For Better Emotional Health
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